Few would call a major knee injury a blessing in disguise.
But the Pine River-Backus Tigers basketball team made the most of Tatum Sheley’s bad situation.
Sheley, a five-year varsity starter, tore her ACL during a July AAU basketball tournament. PR-B head coach Randy Schwegel recalled hearing the news.
“I got a text from them down in the Cities where they were playing the AAU tournament that Tatum hurt her knee,” said Schwegel. “I got on the phone right away and called them and it was one of two times I heard Tatum cry. The other time was the first day of practice.
“Other than that, she has absolutely been focused and determined to get back. She lifted weights every morning and after school we’d go back and she would do her exercises.”
Sheley thanked her family and friends for getting through the ordeal emotionally, and physical therapist David Hughes for helping through the physical recovery.
“It was a complete shock when it happened,” Sheley said. “It was shocking and devastating. That first night I was pretty inconsolable. After I did the math and knew it was only going to be six months and I would be back around January and I knew things weren’t over, that’s when I got over it.”
Sheley missed the Tigers’ first seven games. PR-B went 5-2 during that time, but more important Sheley’s teammates gained confidence.
“I honestly believe it was a blessing,” said Sheley. “I think me tearing up my knee happened at the perfect time. My teammates knew they needed to pick it up and they figured out they could score without me. We have three or four players that can score above 20 points on any given night. It’s a lot nicer than last year. Now we have more players who can create their own offense and score points.”
Since Sheley’s return, PR-B has gone 12-1. But the senior guard still isn’t 100 percent. Her statistics don’t show it, though.
In PR-B’s 86-34 win over Pillager Feb. 5, she finished with 16 points, 10 assists and six steals. In a 98-35 win over Blackduck Sheley posted 31 points, six steals, four assists and four rebounds. She followed with 35 points, eight steals, seven assists and six rebounds in an 84-48 win over Kelliher/Northome Feb. 9.
“We didn’t put any pressure on her to return,” said Schwegel. “When she started playing I told her to do what she could do. I told her if you get tired, then come out, but she never came out. She said her knee would get stiff if she did.
“I didn’t want her driving into the lane going through all that contact. I kept her out of the lane and passing the ball and hitting open people and doing those kind of things. She’s becoming more confident in her knee.”
Sheley reached 2,000 career points earlier this season. She will finish her career as PR-B’s all-time leading scorer and career leader in assists and steals. She has numerous offers to play next year, but she’s focused on getting stronger and helping her team to the state tournament.
“It’s our ultimate goal,” said Sheley. “We always say it’s winning the conference, but we’ve proven we can do that. The ultimate goal is state and we have a pretty legitimate chance of that. If we continue to play well as a team, I don’t think there is anyone who can stop us.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Vanessa Lane, Pequot Lakes, finished with 23 points and eight rebounds against Wadena-Deer Creek.
Bethany Cressman, Lake Region, finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds against Owatonna.
Brittany Kelley, Pine River-Backus, scored 21 points against Pillager.
Kelly Pearson, Staples-Motley, scored 20 points against Pequot Lakes and 22 against Menahga.
Teresa Moenkedick, Verndale, finished with 20 points and five steals against Ashby.
Chelsey Bonsante, Crosby-Ironton, finished with 31 points and 10 steals against Roseau.
Jamie Jenks, Little Falls, scored 24 points against Sartell.
Gymnastics: Rachelle LeBlanc, Little Falls, won the all-around title with a 36.975 against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle and won the Granite Ridge Conference title with a 36.975.
Hockey: Kaylyn Eggena, Northern Lakes, finished with four goals and three assists against Morris/Benson.